The state of New York and Gov. Andrew Cuomo could take a lesson from the Essex County Board of Supervisors regarding how to pass legislation.
On March 11, the board held a special SAFE Act Task Force Committee meeting where the new state law banning certain assault weapons and placing restrictions on magazine capacities, among other things, was discussed.
Three versions of a resolution that criticizes the state for the way it handled the passage of the law were presented, one asking for the measure to be amended and two calling for an outright repeal of the law. After discussion and debate, the committee voted to put forward a resolution to the full Board of Supervisors that will call for the repeal of the SAFE Act. That vote will take place at a special meeting called by Board Chair Randy Douglas Monday, March 18, at 6 p.m. in the county supervisors chambers in Elizabethtown.
What Essex County has done is exactly what opponents of the law have been slamming the state for not doing, taking their time and getting feedback from their constituents on how to address the matter.
Elizabethtown Supervisor Margaret Bartley, who motioned for amendment of the SAFE Act, printed out the law and presented it to members of her town, asking them to check what they liked in the law and cross out what they did not. Gerald Morrow of Chesterfield, who chairs the committee, talked with residents and local sporting organizations. Douglas, who confesses that he does not own a gun, said he has learned more than he ever wanted to about them and the subject of gun violence in relation to this highly-debated law.
When North Hudson's Ronald Moore presented the board with a resolution backing the New York State Sheriff's Association and their stance on the matter, Morrow said that not only did the county need their own voice, they needed to do it the right way.
“If we pass something without taking the time to look at it and study it, then we are no better than the state legislature who did exactly that with this law,” Morrow said.
Residents of Essex County will now get their chance to be heard on the subject during a hearing at 6 p.m. next Monday at the board of supervisor’s chambers in Elizabethtown. This is your chance to have your opinion added to the more than 40 counties that have already passed measures calling for the repeal of the SAFE Act.
Essex County may be one of the last to act, but to criticize that is hypocritical if you also criticize those at the state who made the rush to judgement to pass the act in the first place. It would be safe to say that the first resolutions to repeal the law may have been knee-jerk reactions to a knee-jerk reaction, and two wrongs do not make a right.
In the same token, it would be hypocritical if you have been one crying for a voice in this matter and then neglect to take advantage of the opportunity the board of supervisors is affording. We encourage all sides to make their voices known, while sticking to our belief that the SAFE Act was indeed a rush to judgement that was created more for potential political gain than for the interest of public safety. As Sheriff Richard Cutting said, “the SAFE Act would not have prevented Sandy Hook, Columbine or any of these other massacres.”
We commend the board of supervisors for the approach they have taken to this topic. With that, let us offer a suggestion. The county has a budget committee that is already looking to make cuts to help save county taxpayers in the 2014 budget. It’s good to see the board starting early focusing on the budget and the anticipated shortfall in the coming year, but we suggest that the board combines that with more opportunities for the public to comment on the process.
Supervisors should consider holding more meetings in the evening — like they plan to do with the SAFE Act hearing — when more residents are available to attend. There is already a buzz in the county concerning the potential sale of the county fairgrounds in Westport, and it would be good to have a public hearing on the matter, if it gets to that point, before any decision is made.
Then it will be up to the residents to take advantage of the chance to have their voice heard because, as the SAFE Act has proven, silence is not always golden.
Go Lady Pats!
The editorial staff at Denton Publications wishes the AuSable Valley Patriots the best of luck in the NYSPHSAA Class C Final Four this weekend. Go, Lady Patriots!